Monday, July 27, 2009

Leaving Something Behind…

We spent the past week in Nairobi and Mombassa. In Nairobi we were able to practice our pitch to some contacts from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Acumen Fund. Our project and all its start up costs are a fraction to what the aforementioned organizations deal with when deciding to fund projects- a minimum of $500,000 in capital. We simply have appreciated the opportunity to meet these people as well as practice our pitch especially after our summer work!

The entire team except me- Tanisha- has left Kenya and I am left here to finish some remaining business and will be off on a jet plane this evening. I was able to visit our site for the first time since Becky and I left Nakuru for Nairobi and our mini-vacay in Mombassa. I was pleased to see a huge dump truck at the Polytechnic delivering gravel and sand! I spent the day meeting with Isaac and discussing the way forward and managing the project in our absence. The main bottleneck still remains to be the mysterious KRA pin which is basically our registration with the Kenyan IRS. We are learning to maneuver around this irritating constraint and hope and pray it will be processed by Aug 15th.

This summer has definitely been eventful! Establishing an enterprise has proved to be quite exciting! We weren’t quite sure what the outcome would be when we embarked on this journey-- now we are leaving and fully intend to return with lifelong relationships and a manufacturing facility here in Kenya. For some of those inquiring minds out there, Becky and I (Tanisha) fully intend to come back in January to see how this real pilot project is going.

Thanks for reading this blog, we hope to keep it updated as we pursue this project and try to get something moving while in the US.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Final Stretch- Finishing Well

We are preparing to leave Njoro tomorrow! We will be spending the next week or so on the road meeting people in Nairobi as well as trying to take a few days out for some much needed R & R in Mombassa. The past few weeks have been power packed with a lot a great things and events. We leave Njoro feeling like we have accomplished a lot and yet, feel like there is still so much to do.

RWI-Maji Salama Official Registration.

The RWI-Maji Salama Office on the Nakuru Youth Polytechnic campus.

The students at the Nakuru Youth Polytechnic.

Becky and Tanisha taking care of business on a "boda-boda"-- motorbike taxi.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The check is in the mail...

After two weeks of waiting, and waiting... we have received our first check! This is our first down payment for our order for 200 filters. We’re hoping to use this down payment to buy raw materials and start production prior to our departure. We are experiencing some snags with bureaucracy and all that it takes to start a business. In order to open a business bank account we need a mysterious PIN number from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). Nevertheless, since we registered a mere 11 days ago our business is not in the KRA database which takes 2 weeks to populate newly registered businesses. We’re trying to contact some people in Nairobi to see if we can get our business populated in the KRA database earlier. We’ll see. Ahhh, the beauty of working in a foreign system. As Becky so eloquently stated today, “Toto, We’re not in Kansas anymore."

Photo taken June 19, 2009 at Yasha Mission School, Njoro, Kenya (May seem like a random post with the above blog entry, but these kids are so cute. I thought we would show some of the local kids.)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Moving Forward and Introducing RWI-Maji Salama- Its Official!

Our team has hit a fork in the road on this journey. Aseel and Sanghamitra will be leaving Kenya on Monday to head back to their home countries (Iraq and India respectively) for a bit before starting the fall semester this August. Meanwhile Becky and Tanisha will remain in-country for about two more weeks. As we prepare to bid our teammates goodbye we are also reflecting on how fruitful this trip has been. We started this journey and calling this a “Feasibility Study” and quickly came to the conclusion on week two that this was “very possible.” Since then we have been trying figure out what is the most appropriate strategy for our team.

Isaac our local Kenyan representative has helped us in registering the entity RWI-Maji Salama. “Maji Salama” means, “Safe Water” in Swahili. We are official, and are awaiting our first down payment for a big order of 200 BSFs. Once we receive the down payment we are hoping to start production!

"Give me a R- Give me a W- Give me an I... what's that spell??? RWI!!!"

The highlights of our time in Kenya:
 Going on Safari in Masai Mara and seeing tons of wildlife!
 Visiting urban slums in Nairobi, and understanding the sanitation and water situation there.
 Visiting communities in the Njoro Watershed and understanding how the BSF has impacted households already.
 Installing three BSFs in a local secondary school and going back to see the progress and implementation of the BSFs.
 Visiting local microfinance institutions and even having the possibility to partner with one!
 Establishing a partnership with the Nakuru Youth Polytechnic Institute for production and manufacturing.
 Experiencing frustration and trying to understand how things get done in Kenya especially registering a business entity.

These are just a few of our highlights… and there has been much more!
We wish our dear teammates a safe journey and a restful time with their families.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Partnership Established with Nakuru Youth Polytechnic Institute

Well, we all managed to survive past June 30th, and are proud to announce that we have established a partnership with the Nakuru Youth Polytechnic Institute. The institute trains local teens in various vocations such as carpentry, masonry, welding, hairdressing, automotive mechanics, dressmaking etc. We will be able to manufacture the Biosand filters (BSF) in their facility while using the student man-power to manufacture the BSFs. An equitable agreement has been struck for both parties and we are excited to see the possibilities for our partnership. June 30th was a big day for us we feel like we have accomplished something big. Now we have to implement and make sure everything is in line prior to our departure in late July.

In addition we are also happy to introduce you all to Isaac the local Kenyan Representative for Running Water International. Isaac has been a part of our team since we interviewed him during our trip over spring break in March, and he will be working with our local Kenyan partners and making sure the project runs smoothly on the ground for the next 7 months here in Nakuru. The RWI team has identified the next 7 months as a trial period as we prepare to manufacture the BSFs with the Nakuru Polytechnic to fulfill an order of 200 BSFs. Also we would like to mention that we are in the process of registering our business in Kenya and should be official soon.

*The pictures featured were taken June 30th, the day the MOU was signed and an agreement was made with Nakuru Youth Polytechnic. The picture of Isaac is from the same day when we were invited to a "baraza" (village meeting) in a community called Lare.